Despite re-opening a broken scaphoid bone in his left wrist on Friday, Casey Stoner took his seventh MotoGP pole position in a row by over half a second at Misano on Saturday.
But Stoner's ultimate advantage doesn't reflect the competitiveness of the session, which also saw Randy de Puniet, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi occupy provisional pole at some point during the final 30 minutes of the hour.
Race winning rookie Lorenzo was arguably the most threatening, Rossi's Michelin-shod team-mate providing the beleaguered French tyre brand - and his own confidence - with a welcome boost as he pushed his M1 0.244secs clear of Stoner with ten minutes to go, then put himself back on target for a fourth pole by returning to the top with two minutes remaining.
But Stoner put in an incredible effort on his final attack, snatching his seventh pole by a massive 0.586secs from Lorenzo, despite using only two qualifying tyres this afternoon.
Title rival Valentino Rossi, who will start his home race 50 points clear of Stoner after the Australian's errors at the past two rounds, then bumped Lorenzo back to third on his final lap, but was still left 0.510secs slower than Stoner.
de Puniet followed Rossi over the line for fourth on his LCR Honda, with Toni Elias backing up his debut Ducati podium with a fighting fifth position for the Alice Team, one place in front of Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, who completes the second row.
Chris Vermeulen took the new GSV-R chassis to seventh position, ahead of Honda Gresini's Shinya Nakano and top Tech 3 Yamaha rider James Toseland, who lapped a tenth quicker than team-mate Colin Edwards.
Tenth for Edwards means the top ten featured a perfect 5-5 split between Michelin and Bridgestone tyres, although it will take a supreme effort for anyone to challenge Stoner and Rossi for the full race distance on Sunday.
Loris Capirossi was a disappointing eleventh on the second Rizla Suzuki, ahead of Sylvain Guintoli and home rider Alex de Angelis. Andrea Dovizioso looked unusually ragged as he tried to extract more than 14th position from his JiR Honda, while countryman Marco Melandri will start his final Italian event on a Ducati from just 15th position.
Pedrosa's team-mate Nicky Hayden was only 16th on his return from a heel injury, while John Hopkins - who missed Friday practice - was the highest placed ZX-RR rider on a dark day for Kawasaki; Hopkins and team-mate Anthony West being at the bottom of the field in 17th and 18th.
4. de Puniet
13. de Angelis